The government is unaware of the plan, if any, for the development of privately-owned Balliceaux, but Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that he is not against any development on the island.
The 320-acre island, owned by the Linleys, was recently put up for sale with the listing price of US$30 million. In fact, the island has been advertised for sale on a number of previous occasions.
The island has significant historical value and deep religious meaning particularly for the ancestors of the early Garifuna people, 5000 of whom were banished from mainland St. Vincent and held on Balliceaux, before they were eventually exiled to Roatán, an island off Honduras.
It is estimated that at least half of the 5,000 died while being held captive on Balliceaux for up to six months.
There are, therefore, calls for the island to be declared a sacred site.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that there are some people who believed the island should not be developed but he preferred not to “get on that journey” because there are places all around the world where there has been pain and suffering but have been developed.
“In St Vincent and every Caribbean country there has been a lot of historic pain, native genocide and the enslavement of Africans. But in those places, we have had to do development,” Gonsalves said while addressing the issue on Radio 705’s ‘Face-to-Face’ programme on March 8.
He cautioned, though, that if there was to be any development, then it would have to be done sensibly.
But as of now, the government was unaware of the future of the island and according to Dr. Gonsalves, no one had approached the government to detail any plans for Balliceaux.
There were lots of questions of a developmental nature which he said would have to be addressed which included the historic nature of the island.
Given the history of the island, Dr. Gonsalves questioned the portion of space that would be set aside for an appropriate memorial.
According to Dr. Gonsalves, the purchaser would have to acquire a land owner’s license, depending on who buys the island, but there was no infrastructure on the island.
“I see it advertised that it can be a place for a rich person to own a house, but are you going to get a landowner’s license for someone to put one compound on the property?” he speculated.
And if it is a development, then the nature of the development was another issue to deal with.
“So there are all sorts of questions to be asked” Gonsalves said, making it clear that no one had come to the government to indicate if they were the buyer or that they had come to discuss development on the island